Friday, October 25th---Thomas Wolfe said, “you can can’t go home again.” Well Houston Nutt has. The Ole Miss Head Coach has returned to the University of Arkansas.
Wolfe also noted in Of Time and The River, “All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.”
I seriously doubt Nutt felt like a love sick suitor returning to a girl he abandoned today. No, Nutt, who retreated from the Ozark state last November to the University of Mississippi, must have felt more like General Douglas MacArthur returning to the Philippines, ready to avenge his earlier withdrawal.
Unlike MacArthur, Houston made no promise to revisit the site of his denouement when he departed, but everyone knew it was inevitable when he accepted a position with an SEC Western Division school. In anticipation, loyalists on both sides of the Mississippi circled October 25th on their calendars.
Well, the wait is over, almost; and Nutt’s homecoming promises to be a war in itself.
On his return excursion across the border Nutt brought plenty of help with him in the form of the best 3-4 football team in the country. Ole Miss, which could just as easily be undefeated as not, beat No. 5 Florida earlier this season and almost beat No. 2 Alabama this past Saturday (losing in the last minute by 3). Both of those games were on the road. The Razorbacks played both Florida and Alabama at home and lost by a combined score of 87-21.
In his return, Nutt looks to be every bit as much the conquering hero MacArthur ever was. By tomorrow night we’ll know if he is indeed capable of vanquishing those who formerly applauded him. You have to think Nutt likes his chances in the skirmish ahead.
Surely he felt confident as he entered Arkansas airspace at approximately 1:50 this afternoon four miles north of the Mississippi River Bridge at Helena. Certainly he recognized, some 28,000 feet above the Arkansas Delta, that on board his Boeing 737 he had with him more talent than he left behind last fall in Fayetteville.
What thoughts were in his mind some twelve minutes later when the Air-Tran charter banked softly to the right and flew directly over Little Rock toward northwest Arkansas, his former home, and his former life. Did he peer out the window at the Capital City where he was born? Did he pick out Central High School where he graduated? Could he see the Arkansas School for the Deaf where his father was Athletic Director and Head Basketball coach for 35 years. Perhaps he caught site of the Billy Mitchell Boy’s club where he and his brothers were daily fixtures growing up. It would have been hard to miss the immense Immanuel Baptist church, where his parents were members on the west side of town.
Undoubtedly he winged his way over many who made his life a living hell in his final days as the coach of the Razorbacks. Did he secretly imagine flying over Searcy and dumping the lavatory’s “blue water” on the home of Thomas McAfee, the somewhat overzealous “fan” who acquired Nutt’s cell phone records last fall? One could hardly blame him if he did envision just that. From my view, it would simply be amo pro amo if he actually did that.
Who knows what his private thoughts were as he began a gradual decent on approach to the runway at Northwest Arkansas Regional and the ultimately inevitable meeting with his successor; which is now just a day away.
What might he have contemplated as his feet touched the same tarmac where a plane one waited to take him to Lincoln to be the leader of the Cornhuskers? Regardless of any mixed sentiments he may have felt upon his return, there is one passion that I guarantee you imbues his emotions: an incredible, overwhelming desire to win, and win big. This is no normal game. This is HOMECOMING in the truest sense.
Tomorrow night, the Arkansas swine will gather at the sty in Fayetteville and they are certain to extend a less than hospitable welcome to their former coach in his return. Fact is, they’d be gleeful to see him lose, not only because a win would even their record, but his loss, would justify their lack of appreciation for all the blood, sweat and tears, he gave to their program.
Tonight we must wait, but tomorrow, when it’s hog calling time in Arkansas, expect Nutt to still utter the familiar refrain, of “woo, pig, sooie;” only this time, it won’t be as a coach calling his team to victory, but as a butcher, calling a sounder to the slaughter.
If Houston Nutt has his way, his Ole Miss team will perpetuate a massacre, and rip the burgundy heart out of every Arkansas fan present.
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